Wednesday 23rd August 1995

An extract from my childhood diary as I was approaching my 13th birthday. We are staying in a caravan in Cornwall for our annual summer holiday.  

What lovely handwriting!

day good

in the morning went to land’s end it is good

went in the car took ages traffic jam

had lunch by the sea and the cliffs

in the afternoon

went on a lifeboat and made a model of sand mixture with glue too

watched a film about the sea

dates last day

tomorrow last day

weather rain + cool temp 22

summery v. good day enjoyed it

It took me a long time to decipher the pencilled scrawl I was using back then. My handwriting appears to have got much worse over the preceding months. Much of that seems to be due to my insistence to fill all the available space. Rather than writing any extra thoughts to achieve this, I have simply stretched the words out by writing larger letters to make sure I got to the right hand margin.

Reading back over this and since I hadn’t really mastered using any kind of detail, I have so many questions. What was the film? Why was using glue so notable? How did I count 22 degrees as being cool? What does ‘dates last day’ actually mean? Why wasn’t I using grammar?

One thing I have managed to decipher was my day classification system used on the first line. This day was ‘day good’. Other days in the same week were ‘day alright’ (visit to Sea Life centre) ‘day alright-good’ (French boules tournament) and even ‘day bad-ok’ (missed crazy golf due to an undocumented reason). I had a great fondness for crazy golf and on one memorable day, hit my ball into a pond and then dropped my club in too while trying to retrieve the ball.

Street vendors not shown

I chose this diary entry to write about as I have a clear memory of going to Land’s End and getting a family photo (which I have failed to find) next to the famous sign. I was surprised that a whole village of tourist stuff had built up around Land’s End; shops, cafes, pubs, holiday cottages all rather ruining the remote idyll of being at the end of the land. While travelling as an adult, I have found that this is typical, Niagara Falls has it’s own casino, the Pyramids in Egypt have a branch of Pizza Hut while ancient stones at Machu Picchu were moved to build a helipad.

One thing that is very me is visiting a lifeboat station. I didn’t remember my interest going that far back but I have been to many stations since and at one point even ran tours around them. More recently I have been asked (several times) to volunteer but there is no way my autistic brain could cope with that. Maybe if people could pre-book their emergencies so I would have time to prepare taking care to ensure the weather and time of day were suitable (going out in the dark is no good) then I would be in with a chance.

One thing that is becoming clear, I am unlikely to join the ranks of Samuel Pypes and Anne Frank as a leading diarist with my weather and traffic jam observations.

Saturday 6th March 1993

I have been recently reunited with my childhood diaries. This is the first entry I wrote;

Swimming club, crawls 56

Metrolink to Manchester, went to the Arndale Centre.

Went bowling, I won 74-71. 3 point difference.

Mild and cloudy. 9 temp.

Summary: a tiring day but one I will always remember 10/10.

This was the final year I was at primary school, three years before the Arndale centre I mentioned got destroyed by an IRA bomb and it is so interesting to read it again 27 years later. The Metrolink is the tram service and because it goes along the streets rather than underground or on train tracks, I found it very exciting and if I am honest, I still do.

As a child, I was a keen swimmer and went to swim club at the council run leisure centre twice a week. I was hopeless and used to hop along the bottom of the pool thinking nobody would notice. Because of this, I was one of the last to get my 10-meter badge. I tried for years to make it onto the team, eventually I managed and was on the relay team at a gala against another local club. I was so slow that I wasn’t asked again and stopped going not long after. (crawls 56, meant I did 56 widths of front crawl. Yes, I counted).

Ten pin bowling seemed so innocent then, before the government deemed it to be an activity at high risk of spreading disease. My main memory of bowling was the anxiety of not getting my shoes back at the end. When I was young, I was convinced that my shoes would be lost, and I would be stuck with those weird red and white bowling shoes forever. I found out recently the reason for the shoe changing at the bowling alley is that they help the player slide down the lane. Quite why you would consider young children sliding around with heavy bowling balls to be a good thing, remains an unanswered question.

Assorted Bowling Ball Lot

Obviously, it is full of spelling mistakes and lack of space meant there is no real detail but looking back over this entry, it is interesting to see how full of numbers it is. I noted the temperature, the bowling score, how many widths I swam and even gave the day a rating out of ten. What I totally failed to mention is who else was involved (presumably I didn’t do all this alone, aged 10) but other people were not significant enough for me to notice. In hindsight, autistic traits are clearly already there.

So, was ten-year-old me correct? Was this a day I would always remember? No.